ALL SAINTS

An ambitious first novel that's strongly reminiscent of Robert Stone's 1967 debut, A Hall of Mirrors. Set in 1950 in New Orleans, laboriously interweaving the destinies of its three desperate protagonists, it's a shrill story overburdened by melodramatic contrivances and wheezing with ``significance''—and it's also an exciting display of a formidable fictional imagination at work. When Cajun Harlan Desonnier is released from prison after serving eight years for accidentally killing his wife Janine, he looks for Father Francis Doyle, the priest who had visited and consoled him—rather than seek his old friend Louis Chopin, who, Harlan is convinced, had fathered the daughter Janine bore him. But Father Frank, who has lost his faith for reasons the narrative only hints at, is undergoing his own crisis—searching for a missing black man whom he had rescued from a savage street beating and is intent on ``saving.'' Glory Wiltz, a nurse Harlan meets when a fight with his brother sends him to the hospital, is herself at crisis point, trying to regain custody of her young son from her estranged husband, a black jazz musician. Palmer brings these three together more or less credibly and sends them on a multi-motivated quest that climaxes on Halloween; then she allows each, All Saints' Day, a measure of closure, if not redemption. Though the author writes crisp, tangy sentences and expertly renders the details of Cajun home life, her characters' agonies are simply too portentous to ring fully true. Glory's alienation from both her own white liberal upbringing and her husband's milieu is insufficiently developed, and Father Doyle is a cardboard, Graham Greenederived clichÇ. But Palmer succeeds brilliantly with Harlan Desonnier, especially in the moment when his violence and pain seep away, when he intuits saving ``presence, something that lived just beneath the surface of things.'' A bold try, and a genuine promise of much stronger work to come.

Pub Date: Dec. 1, 1997

ISBN: 1-56947-105-3

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Soho

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 1997

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There are unforgettable beauties in this very sexy story.

TELL ME LIES

Passion, friendship, heartbreak, and forgiveness ring true in Lovering's debut, the tale of a young woman's obsession with a man who's "good at being charming."

Long Island native Lucy Albright, starts her freshman year at Baird College in Southern California, intending to study English and journalism and become a travel writer. Stephen DeMarco, an upperclassman, is a political science major who plans to become a lawyer. Soon after they meet, Lucy tells Stephen an intensely personal story about the Unforgivable Thing, a betrayal that turned Lucy against her mother. Stephen pretends to listen to Lucy's painful disclosure, but all his thoughts are about her exposed black bra strap and her nipples pressing against her thin cotton T-shirt. It doesn't take Lucy long to realize Stephen's a "manipulative jerk" and she is "beyond pathetic" in her desire for him, but their lives are now intertwined. Their story takes seven years to unfold, but it's a fast-paced ride through hookups, breakups, and infidelities fueled by alcohol and cocaine and with oodles of sizzling sexual tension. "Lucy was an itch, a song stuck in your head or a movie you need to rewatch or a food you suddenly crave," Stephen says in one of his point-of-view chapters, which alternate with Lucy's. The ending is perfect, as Lucy figures out the dark secret Stephen has kept hidden and learns the difference between lustful addiction and mature love.

There are unforgettable beauties in this very sexy story.

Pub Date: June 12, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5011-6964-9

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Atria

Review Posted Online: March 20, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2018

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The phrase “tour de force” could have been invented for this audacious novel.

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A LITTLE LIFE

Four men who meet as college roommates move to New York and spend the next three decades gaining renown in their professions—as an architect, painter, actor and lawyer—and struggling with demons in their intertwined personal lives.

Yanagihara (The People in the Trees, 2013) takes the still-bold leap of writing about characters who don’t share her background; in addition to being male, JB is African-American, Malcolm has a black father and white mother, Willem is white, and “Jude’s race was undetermined”—deserted at birth, he was raised in a monastery and had an unspeakably traumatic childhood that’s revealed slowly over the course of the book. Two of them are gay, one straight and one bisexual. There isn’t a single significant female character, and for a long novel, there isn’t much plot. There aren’t even many markers of what’s happening in the outside world; Jude moves to a loft in SoHo as a young man, but we don’t see the neighborhood change from gritty artists’ enclave to glitzy tourist destination. What we get instead is an intensely interior look at the friends’ psyches and relationships, and it’s utterly enthralling. The four men think about work and creativity and success and failure; they cook for each other, compete with each other and jostle for each other’s affection. JB bases his entire artistic career on painting portraits of his friends, while Malcolm takes care of them by designing their apartments and houses. When Jude, as an adult, is adopted by his favorite Harvard law professor, his friends join him for Thanksgiving in Cambridge every year. And when Willem becomes a movie star, they all bask in his glow. Eventually, the tone darkens and the story narrows to focus on Jude as the pain of his past cuts deep into his carefully constructed life.  

The phrase “tour de force” could have been invented for this audacious novel.

Pub Date: March 10, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-385-53925-8

Page Count: 720

Publisher: Doubleday

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2015

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